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Jerash: Complete Guide to Jordan’s Best Roman Ruins
Jerash is among the most famous archaeological sites in Jordan, after ancient Petra. Jerash is known for its large amount of impressive Roman ruins. It’s considered to be one of the best-preserved Roman cities outside of Italy.
Located less than an hour drive from Amman, Jerash is a perfect addition to your roundtrip in Jordan.
In this article, I’ll show you the best things to see in Jerash. You’ll get some useful tips to help you plan your stay, written by a local expert.
What is Special about Jerash?
The city of Jerash has a long and interesting history. The area of modern Jerash has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. However, the city started to flourish only in the 1st century BC when the Romans reigned the region. During that time, Jerash became a major trading city and was part of the Roman Decapolis.
During its heyday, around 20,000 people lived in Jerash. That wouldn’t be a lot today, but it was quite a lot during that time.
That said, there are countless Roman ruins in Jerash. What’s special about Jerash is the fact that the Roman ruins are in great condition. Furthermore, they form one large coherent archaeological site. We’re not talking about some scattered ruins among modern buildings, but a well connected ancient Roman city to wander around.
Besides its impressive Roman ruins, the city of Jerash hosts the Jerash Festival. The event is held annually and is said to be one of the largest music and cultural festivals in the entire region.
Jerash vs. Gerasa
You might have heard of Jerash as Gerasa. So which one is right, Jerash or Gerasa? The answer is: both!
The Romans originally named the city Gerasa. You can still find this name when reading about the Decapolis. That was an alliance of ten major Greco-Roman cities which Gerasa was part of.
Centuries later, the Arabs founded “Modern Jerash”. Gerasa was changed to Jerash which is an Arabized version of the original Roman name.
Jerash Archaeological Site
What’s important to know is that Jerash is divided into two parts – an ancient and a modern part.
The Roman ruins of Jerash are part of a large archaeological site. There’s only one entrance to the site, which is the Visitor’s Center (the ticket office). It’s basically a large open air museum with ruins spread across the site.
Only a stone’s throw away from the archaeological site is the center of modern Jerash. That’s today’s residential district of the city. Note that there’s not much to see here. You can find some smaller hotels and some restaurants for lunch or a snack, but that’s all.
I recommend that you head to the Visitor’s Center of Jerash and visit the archaeological site. If you’re hungry, you can head to the modern city center later, but you won’t miss out on anything if you don’t.
Things to See in Jerash
As mentioned above, Jerash is mainly known for its archaeological site. This is where you’ll find Jordan’s best Roman ruins. Events such as the RACE show and the Jerash festival take place at the same location. That means you don’t have to travel far to see it all.
Let me walk you through the best things to see in Jerash. I’ve listed the Roman ruins of Jerash in the order in which you can visit them when exploring the site.
1. Hadrian’s Gate
Once you enter the site through the Visitors’ Center, you’ll get to Hadrian’s Gate (also known as Hadrian’s Arch). Hadrian’s Gate is a large gate constructed for the occasion of Roman emperor Hadrian visiting the city.
Continuing straight, you’ll get to the Hippodrome to your left. That’s the place where Romans held shows and events back then. Today, the Hippodrome has remained an important location for events in Jordan.
3. Oval Plaza (Forum)
The Oval Plaza (also called Oval Forum) marks the heart of the archaeological site. It’s a large colonnaded square which is connected to the Cardo Maximus (ancient main street). The Oval Plaza is probably the only building in Jerash that wasn’t built according to Roman architectural patterns (due to its oval shape).
4. South Theater
Located on a hilltop behind the Hippodrome and the Oval Plaza. Jerash South Theater is a small yet beautiful theater which is particularly well preserved. The highlight is a group of local musicians who perform here on most days. You’re likely to encounter them, too.
5. Zeus Temple (Jupiter Temple)
A small temple located next to the South Theater.
6. Temple of Artemis (Artemis Temple)
Walk down from the South Theater / Zeus Temple back towards the Oval Plaza. Continue your route towards the north-east of the site (again slightly uphill, on the left-hand side of the Oval Plaza). Artemis Temple was named after the main God of the Romans and is the largest and best preserved temple in Jerash. It’s located on a small hill overlooking the main attractions of Jerash.
7. Byzantine Churches
Close to the Temple of Artemis, you’ll see the ruins of several churches. Note that these aren’t Roman ruins. Jerash churches date back to the Byzantines (a Christian dynasty who inhabited Jerash a few centuries after the Romans). The best things about these churches are the remains of the beautiful mosaics floors.
8. North Theather
Situated in the northern part of the site (at the northern end of the Cardo Maximus) is another small tetrapylon, the North Tetrapylon. Walk past it to get to the North Theater. It’s less visited than the South Theather but well worth a visit.
Probably the most impressive building is Jerash Nymphaeum. The nymphaeum was the main water source of the city. Think of it as a carefully decorated monumental fountain. The Nymphaeum is located on the Cardo Maximus.
10. Colonnaded Street
The Cardo Maximus was the main street in any Roman city, leading from north to south. It’s decorated with columns on both sides, for which reason it’s also known as Colonnaded Street. The street leads from the Northern gate all the way to the Oval Plaza.
By the way, you’ll find more information on Jerash’s sights and a practical map to find your way through the archaeological site of Jerash in my self-published Jordan travel guide.
Would you like to time travel to the Roman empire? You’ll almost feel like you’re back to the Roman heyday when visiting Jerash!
The Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE) is a local project intended to bring Roman gladiators and chariot racing back to life. Just like in Roman days, the show takes place in the Hippodrome. The event is accompanied by music and live commentary in English.
The best part of the Jerash RACE show is the fact that it’s a program brought into life to employ locals. From the choreography, scene-setting, equipment to horse care: the program is entirely run by locals, most of which from Jerash itself. The people on stage are mostly ex-army or policemen from Jerash. Gladiator costumes and equipment are made in Jordan.
That said, you’ll not only have a great experience, but visiting the Jerash RACE show also means supporting a local project.
The Jerash RACE Show is scheduled to take place daily at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. It takes around 30 minutes and costs JOD 12 per person. Please note that the show is not held during Ramadan.
The Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts is part of the Jordan Festival. It was founded in 1981 by Queen Nour with the goal to enhance cultural events in Jordan. Jerash Festival takes place every year during summertime.
Over the past decades, Jerash Festival has grown to be a major music festival in Jordan. Past editions attracted over 100,000 visitors.
Naturally, the Jerash Festival is mainly visited by Jordanians who enjoy celebrating Arab music and culture. It’s not meant to be a tourist attraction, but foreign visitors are more than welcome to attend the festival. If you’re into Arabic music, this is your chance to see famous Arab singers such as Najwa Karam or Maya Diab live.
Even if you don’t know much about Arab music, visiting the Jerash festival may be a great opportunity for you to indulge into Arab culture.
Plan Your Stay
Where is Jerash Located?
Jerash is a city in northern Jordan. It’s located about 45 km (28 mi) north of Amman, the capital of Jordan.
Best Time to Visit Jerash
The best time to visit Jerash is during springtime, from March to May. During these months, temperatures are pleasantly warm but neither too hot nor too cold to explore the site. What’s great about visiting Jerash in spring is the fact that the hills that surround the Roman ruins are blossoming during that time.
Autumn (September to November) is also a good time to visit Jerash in terms of climate. However, you won’t see any flowers during that time. Nevertheless, the archaeological site is beautiful year round!
As you’ll most likely visit Jerash as part of a roundtrip to Jordan, be sure to check my article on the best time to visit Jordan to get a complete picture.
How much time in Jerash?
Plan 2-3 hours to explore the most important buildings of Jerash. That includes the buildings in the Southern part (Hippodrome, Oval Plaza, South Theater, Artemis Temple, Nymphaeum and Cardo Maximus). Plan 3-4 hours if you would like to explore Jerash more thoroughly, including the churches and the Roman ruins situated in the Northern part.
How to get to Jerash?
Jerash can be reached by rental car or by bus. There are also numerous tour operators offering day tours from Amman to Jerash.
- Rental car: Self-driving is a popular choice for travelers doing a roundtrip in Jordan because driving in Jordan is very safe, fun and affordable. Jerash is a one-hour drive from Amman. There’s a large car park in front of the Visitor’s Center (free of charge). A rental car is a great option for small groups (2 or more people) who would like to visit Jordan at their own pace.
- JETT bus: JETT is the leading bus company in Jordan. They have a large choice of tours all across the country. JETT currently offers a roundtrip from Amman to Jerash in combination with Ajloun (an impressive castle close to Jerash). The tour is scheduled on Thursday’s and Saturday’s. Tickets are JOD 15 (€ 21 / $ 20) and can be purchased on the JETT website. JETT bus tours are a great option for solo-travelers and couples, especially if you’re traveling on a budget or simply don’t want to self-drive.
- Guided day tours: Day tours are a great option for those who are looking for transportation AND a guide on site. Most private tours include pick up and drop off at your hotel in Amman. These tours offer more comfort and flexibility, but also come with a higher price tag when compared to transport-only offers at JETT.
Jerash Opening Hours
Jerash opens daily at 8 a.m. The closing time varies according to the season: in winter (November – March), it’s open until 4 p.m., in April and May until 5.30 p.m. and in summer (June – October) until 6.30 p.m. During the month of Ramadan, the site opens at 8.30 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.
I’ve compiled a table with all opening hours depending on the season.
A ticket to Jerash is JOD 12 (approx. €16.50 / $17.50).
If you come from a country that is eligible for a visa on arrival (US, UK, EU countries and many more), I highly recommend that you purchase the Jordan Pass for your trip to Jordan. The Jordan Pass waives the visa fee and includes fee entry to Jerash and many other attractions in Jordan!
Any Questions or Feedback?
Have you ever been to Jerash or are you planning to visit soon? Share your experience and questions in the comments section down the page. I’d love to hear from you!
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